Current Status of TVA’s Contamination of Memphis Groundwater

In 2014 TVA publicly announced plans to cool its new natural gas fired power plant with water from the nearby Maxson wastewater treatment plant.

In 2016, without public notice, TVA changed its cooling water plans to pump water directly from our drinking water supply, the Memphis Sand Aquifer. When this change was discovered and reported in the Memphis media, the public responded with outrage. The Sierra Club hosted a public meeting that included local water professionals to gain a better understanding of the issue. TVA did not attend the meeting and cited “cost issues” as the reason for the change in cooling wter plans. In spite of objections from local water scientists, environmentalists and the general public, TVA has charged ahead with its plans to pump from the Memphis Sand Aquifer. Other sources of water are available—including buying the water from MLGW.

In mid 2017, TVA discovered and informed TDEC that the groundwater around the Allen Coal Fired plant was contaminated with high levels of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. This contaminated area is across the street from the new wells TVA has drilled into our deep aquifer.

Protect Our Aquifer, the Sierra Club and other opponents of the plan expected TVA to abandon their plans to pump cooling water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer because of the obvious risk of contaminating our most valuable natural resource, The Memphis Sand Aquifer.

Instead, TVA is pressing ahead and is currently paying water scientists and consultants to conduct selective tests designed to show that drawing cooling water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer in such close proximity to their coal ash contamination is without risk to our drinking water aquifer.

Protect Our Aquifer believes any risk to our aquifer is unacceptable and is currently working with qualified water professionals to review TVA’s Remedial Investigation Work Plan.

Protect Our Aquifer is a non-profit citizen group formed to support the conservation and protection of the Memphis Sand Aquifer for the benefit of present and future generations.

Our objectives

  1. Raise public awareness of the Memphis Sand Aquifer and its value to the community.
  2. To provide public oversight of TVA’s Remedial Investigation Work Plan to prove their new wells are safe and will not contaminate the Memphis Sand Aquifer.
  3. Strengthen the Shelby County Groundwater Control Ordinance with improved well permitting rules and overall management of the aquifer within Shelby County, including public notice, participation, and mandatory Board review of all industrial well permits.


Board Members

Ward Archer

Jason Farmer

Mark Fleischer

Robert Gurley

Jim Kovarik

Jimmy Lewis

Greg Maxted

Hite McLean

Jenna Stonecipher

Peggy Turley